For the Future of the Democratic Party, Look to California

California’s Democrats are transforming the twentieth-century welfare state into an “opportunity state”.

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira argue that California’s Democrats are leading the way in developing a progressive vision for the twenty-first century:

The New California Democrats understand that a healthy society needs a strong government that’s well funded, and they don’t shy from raising public funds through progressive taxation. But the New California Democrats appreciate the market and the capabilities of entrepreneurial business. They are tech-savvy and understand the transformative power of new technologies and the vibrancy of an economy built around them. They understand that to solve our many twenty-first-century challenges, we need business to come up with solutions that scale and that grow the economy for all.

If the twentieth-century progressive model was the welfare state, the twenty-first century’s could be what Leyden and Teixeira call the “opportunity state.”

What that means concretely:

  • Climate and clean energy: Cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to renewable energy. A cap-and-trade system for pollution.
  • Public investment: Using cap-and-trade revenues and increased gasoline taxes to pay for infrastructure investment, including in high-speed rail.
  • Progressive taxation: Breaking with the anti-tax orthodoxy of the 1980s.
  • Growth economy: Understanding that adequate public funds for investment and healthy government can only come with a robust, entrepreneurial economy.
  • Flexible safety net: Separating benefits from employers. Universalizing retirement benefit coverage for workers. Raising the minimum wage.
  • Expanding education: Putting more money in primary and secondary education. Making the first year of community college free for students.
  • Immigration and diversity: Protecting undocumented workers. Granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Recognizing a diverse population as a source of economic strength and cultural renewal.
  • Rethink drugs and crime: Legalizing marijuana. Repealing draconian drug laws.
  • Digital government: Putting public records online and using web-based feedback tools.
  • Electoral reform: Ending gerrymandering. Breaking up the two-party duopoly. Publicizing all political donations.